Final Thoughts

(This blog post was written by Taylor Murray. She is a Senior Bio major, and she has a knack for finding colorful plastic eggs on playgrounds.)

Where do I even begin…it’s been quite the adventure we have had this past week serving at Shepherd.  From witnessing the heartbreaking poverty of Indy to being filled with the hope expressed by those of the community, God has been working and moving in each of our hearts.

While I could sit here and write about everything God has challenged me in and taught me (in which case you would be sitting here for hours), I will share three things that greatly impacted me.  First, I was challenged through the Poverty 101 class that we took while at Shepherd.  It widened my gaze of the idea of poverty, and helped me to see that poverty isn’t just an issue of finance.  Rather, poverty involves many other aspects such as relationships, self advocacy, support groups, physical health, and spirituality.  Being able to understand this allowed me to better grasp how poverty looks different for each person.  It also gave me a better idea on how to interact with someone who may be of a different background than myself.

     Secondly, I was impacted by the hope I felt.  I remember attending the Celebration Service on Sunday, where people were given a chance to celebrate what God had been doing in their lives.  And can I just say when I say the word celebrate…I mean CELEBRATE! These people know how to praise God!  I specifically remember one lady who shared how her daughter was stabbed twice.  I know my first reaction to that would have been one of panic and anxiety, but her response blew me away.  She had such a thankful heart that the situation wasn’t worse than it was.  She knew that worrying would only make matters worse, so she decided to cling to the hope of Christ and pray.  Wow!  What a powerful faith!  It was such a beautiful reminder of the hope that God gives us if we are willing to recognize it in the midst of our trials.
     Thirdly, I’ve been learning a lot about what it means to see others through the lens of Christ rather than the lens of the world. I can recall numerous times throughout the week where God has challenged me in this.  For example, when we met Lavert on the steps of the library, I instantly formed thoughts about him: “homeless, alcoholic, drug addict, dirty.”  Yet, as I made this mental list God quickly redirected my thoughts to align with His.  Those labels that I had so quickly slapped on Lavert transformed into words such as: “loved, brother in Christ, made in HIS image, washed clean in His blood, worth dying for.”  I realized that making those initial assumptions had drastically clouded my vision of how God sees Lavert.  In Samuel 16:7 the Lord says to Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  I had been doing just that; I had been looking at what I saw on the outside rather than focusing on the goodness of Lavert’s heart.
     In conclusion, I think I can speak for the team in saying that the Lord has not only opened and changed our perspectives, but He has also strengthened our relationships with Him as a result.  Our time at Shepherd allowed us to be a part of the work that God was already doing in a way that transformed and molded our hearts.
     So. I guess this is it. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. We will never forget how we saw God this week. He is good all the time! We would love if you continued praying for our transition back into Taylor life. With all of the craziness may we never forget the lessons we have learned this week. Also, please ask the members of our groups to talk more about the trip. We were only able to share a few stories on the blog, and I feel like a lifetime of experiences were had. 

“We all just need to love each other, you know?”

(This post is written by Paige McCourt! She is a wonderful friend; she shoots straight; and she is an expert gamer!!!!!) 😉

What a whirlwind of a day we’ve had here in Indianapolis! Our day began before the sun as we spent the morning serving with Athletes in Action at the Legends of the Hardwood breakfast, a part of the Final Four festivities taking place in downtown Indianapolis. Each member of our team played a different role such as greeter, ticket taker, or usher as we welcomed coaches, players, sponsors, and guests to a breakfast that recognizes Christian character in the world of college basketball. This was a very different type of service than what we’ve been doing throughout the week, but I found it really special to see big name players, coaches, and broadcasters speaking out in the name of Christ. The Gospel was presented at the breakfast by a former NBA player (as a not so sports-minded person, I apologize that I can’t recall who he is), and there is great potential for lives to be changed from the program this morning. How inspiring it is to witness God’s word being spread throughout the city of Indianapolis in various venues and situations!

After a brief nap to energize us for the rest of the day, our team headed out to spend the afternoon exploring areas of Indianapolis with our free afternoon. We checked out the Indianapolis Public Library which was a really cool building that you should stop by if you ever have the opportunity. As we left, we stopped on the steps to take the ever-so-popular jumping picture as a team and caught the attention of a girl on the street. Tasha, as she soon identified herself, actually grew up going to basketball camps at Taylor. Small world! We spent a few moments chatting with her about our purpose for being in the city when a man, clearly drunk, came down the steps and began to talk with us as well.

What happened next is an experience we’ll all be processing for weeks to come.

Lavert is one of many homeless men living on the streets of Indianapolis. He came down the library steps with his possessions in hand, just two small bags and a tablet. As we spent some time talking with him, he told us he lives life in shame of his situation, his background, and other unnamed things as well. But in his words, none of that mattered because God loves him. We spent the next hour or so talking with Lavert about God, both the one he believes in and the one we came to the city to share with its people.

Because Lavert was under the influence of various substances, it is hard to say what he really believes about God. He seems to know a lot of the Christian language that we throw out in evangelistic conversations, but having a head knowledge and having a heart knowledge are two very different things. There were many uncomfortable moments throughout our conversation as I don’t believe many of us have been in a situation like the one we had with Lavert. Regardless of this, I saw the love of God pouring out from each member of my team this afternoon. They left their turf of comfort and entered into the conversation with words of truth on their lips.

We left Lavert with a prayer over him, and we gave him the time of Shepherd’s Easter service tomorrow morning. I don’t know if we’ll see Lavert again or if his interaction with us will be lost in the muddled mess of the alcohol he had consumed prior to talking with us. I don’t know what will happen to him tonight or where he’ll sleep since he said his pride won’t allow him to go to the men’s shelter down the street. I don’t know a lot of things about ministry and the way God works through His people, but I do know that He was present with us in our time with Lavert today. I know that He is watching over my team as well as watching over Lavert and working on his heart each moment. I know that God is good and, as Lavert said, “We all just need to love each other, you know?”

We appreciate your prayers more than you know, and we know that God is doing great things here in Indy through Shepherd Community Center who we all feel blessed to partner with this week. We look forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection with the people of Shepherd tomorrow morning! Wishing you and your families a very Happy Easter!

WOW

WOW (world full of wonder) is all I can say about these past few days. We have done everything from digging in the dirt to serving at an Athletes in Action breakfast for the Final Four. Throughout our time one thing remained the same, no matter if we were in the midst of affluence or poverty, Jesus was there.

He was here in Indianapolis before we were even born, and He will remain after we leave. We have not brought the Gospel to Indy this week, but we have had the phenomenal opportunity to join in the wonder He has planted all around us this Easter. As one of our group members, Mallory said her high of the week was simply experiencing the diverse collection of people in this city. She said that it was so powerful to be reminded of Christ’s love for people (especially during the season of Easter) while joining in His love to minister to people at Shepherd, and even just people on our team.

The sun is shining on Indianapolis today, and our team is experiencing the warmth of Jesus’ love for humanity.

I am so thankful for this trip. As a senior about to graduate without solid plans, I have spent the past few weeks worrying about my future. On this trip, God has shown me that that He will provide what I need. He molds the disconcerting experience of jumping into the unknown a joyful one, and He has filled this world with wonder.

We are attempting to open our eyes wide and embrace the wonder around us through gratitude and prayer. I am going to try to get everyone who wants to a chance to share their experiences and lessons learned on the blog, so please keep checking for updates, praises, and wonderful moments from my teammates. And, as always, thank you all for making this journey for us possible. We have had such a unique opportunity to engage our hearts, minds, and bodies in service of the beautiful people of Indianapolis. Glory to God, and have a WONDERFUL day!!!

Footwashing, Horses, and God’s Faithfulness

(Today’s blog is written by Cameron Eckmann. He is from Anchorage, Alaska, and he is a Star Wars mafia Jedi in his free time.)

Yesterday afternoon, we participated in an event at Shepherd sponsored by Samaritan’s Feet. Basically, we handed out free shoes to kids in the neighborhood near Shepherd, and we washed their feet. Our tasks included helping out in the parking lot, directing people to the foot-washing station, rinsing out foot-washing buckets, getting different sized shoes for different kids, and having the privilege (no, but actually) of washing feet.

I was one of the privileged foot-washers. I would take off the kid’s shoes and socks, put their feet in the water, wash them, dry them with a towel, and put new socks and shoes on their feet. Throughout the process, I would ask them what their favorite color, movie and animal was. (One girl said her favorite animal was a horse, and I proceeded to tell her that my spirit animal was a stallion. That was a social blunder if I’ve ever seen one.) And there was something about foot-washing that was really special. It was a way for us as a team to show the people at Shepherd that we were there to serve them, and I was really glad to be a part of it.

I also had a really cool personal experience yesterday. This entire week, I had been struggling with expectations. No matter how hard I tried, I came into the trip with certain expectations of how our team was going to be, how I was going to be affected, and how I was supposed to have some sort of spiritual high that comes with many missions trips. Also, I had felt like everything on the trip had gone so fast, and I hadn’t had any time to find spiritual meaning in any of it.

Then, this afternoon, Audrey and Maddie asked me how my trip had gone. After I explained my situation, they both agreed and went on to say that they didn’t expect to fully process it until after we leave Shepherd and have a little bit more opportunity to think about it all.

After that, I realized that I don’t have to make this trip more than what it is, and I don’t have to try to turn it into some sort of spiritual high that’s forced and ingenuine. Instead, I can just be thankful for what’s happening here at Shepherd. Also, I can rest in the knowledge that God’s will is a whole lot better than my expectations, and He is going to work in my heart in His timing, not mine.

Thank you for reading this and continuing to pray for us! God is doing really great things here at Shepherd, and I’m excited to see what happens the rest of the week.